What You Need to Know About Interning on Capitol Hill

Posted on Wednesday, Apr 17, 2019

Let me preface this blog post by letting you know how truly amazing it is to intern in Washington, D.C. The city is amazing, the work is compelling, and the experience is second to none. However, there will be times that you forget about those three facts, and I hope you refer to this blog post if you ever need a reminder.
 
One important thing that you should prepare yourself for is the transition from what I like to call “college mode” to “work mode”. For example, in college, you probably wake up sometime in the morning and go to your first class, and then from there have a break where you take a nap or knock out some homework, and then more class and you are probably back home by midafternoon ideally. The professional world is much more structured. For the first two weeks I was half asleep at my desk because I still thought I could stay up late and handle a full 9-5 workday. Please learn from my mistakes and get on a good sleep schedule before you move up here. If we ever run into each other, I’m expecting a thank you on that useful tip.
 
Now that we’ve established that I’m going to tell you about your work as an intern. To put it simply, being an intern is not a glorious job. There will not be many situations where you will be praised for your work, but that is okay. Interns are the lowest on the totem pole in the office, but as one staffer told me, we are the “glue that holds the office together.” IT IS OKAY TO HAVE SLOW DAYS. Sometimes there will be nothing to do, and other days you will be so busy your head will spin. The only thing you can do is embrace the situation, and slow or fast give all the effort you can. Doing small tasks with a smile and positive attitude are noticed by your staffers, and the reward for your diligence is the office’s trust to do more important work. Being an intern is essentially considered a “rite of passage” on Capitol Hill. Stay patient and keep up the good work, and I promise the big assignments you envision will come your way.
 
One last thing I want to leave you with is a reminder to always be networking. Working on Capitol Hill is a very social job, and you will not find a better job atmosphere for meeting truly remarkable people. It’s not only okay, but in fact encouraged to get coffee with people you meet. Don’t be afraid to ask, I have never heard of someone being turned down for a coffee. Bring a notepad, take notes, and thank them for their time. The people I have gotten coffee with have ranged from fellow interns to chief of staffs, and no matter how big or small the position I have come away knowing more than what I did before. There will be times you will get tired of meeting new people and will just want to sit at your desk and work in peace. Don’t become complacent, keep networking and you’ll be surprised the progress you make in only a semester.
 
There will be good days and bad days in Washington, D.C. but at the end of the semester you will come out of your internship with some of the most invaluable skillsets you will use for the rest of your professional career. Every day on the way to work, I say a simple mantra: “Don’t forget why you are here.” I encourage you to say the same motto, and I look forward to seeing you up here.

Jack Youngblood
Office of Congressman Michael McCaul
Washington, D.C. | spring 2019